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New exhibition at the Museum of London exposes modern slavery in London
Karen Anstiss, a police officer with the special crime unit that deals with slavery and human trafficking in London.

LONDON.- A new exhibition at the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands will lift the lid on the shocking reality of trafficking and forced labour in the capital. The exhibition, which opens on 23 August 2011 to coincide with the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, is the Museum’s first cross-site exhibition and will run until 20 November 2011.

In partnership with Anti-Slavery International (external page), the world’s oldest human rights organisation, Freedom from: modern slavery in the capital explores the personal impact of human trafficking and slavery in London in the 21st century.

The display will include a map representing cases of slavery across greater London. It will also include the personal testimonies of those affected by slavery. These include ‘Gheeta’, trafficked from India, made to hand over all her earnings to her trafficker, as well as being forced her to cook and clean for him. “I would work nearly 80 hours a week, seven days a week. He would hit me if I didn’t come home straight away after my shift.” Gheeta was also raped. “Once when I tried to stop him he said he would kill me, chop me up and send the pieces to my family.”

The exhibition also incorporates the views of those fighting to eradicate modern slavery in the capital. Kit Malthouse, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing, who will be officially opening the exhibition, is quoted as saying: “London is a desirable place to come, so we are always going to have a tendency for traffickers to head our way. There is something so appalling about it, it just strikes so deeply. Aside from that moral duty to other human beings, I don not want London having a reputation that these things are easy to do.”

Alongside the personal stories are a series of large-scale commissioned photographs which form the centre-piece of the exhibition. Chris Steele-Perkins from Magnum Photos (external page) has taken eleven images; capturing survivor journeys, thoughts and a survivor who is now campaigning against slavery and trafficking.

The exhibition will cross both of the museum’s sites. A photographic display will be exhibited in the Inspiring London Gallery at the Museum of London, and at the Museum of London Docklands, a survivors’ quilt lent by Survivors Connect will hang alongside new patches created by women who have suffered trafficking.

The exhibition also coincides with the launch of Anti-Slavery International’s new Slavery-Free London campaign. Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said: “With the London Olympics less than a year away, there are increasing concerns that traffickers will target the capital as they dupe vulnerable people by promising non-existent jobs. The stark reality of slavery in the capital will hopefully shock visitors to the exhibition into working with us to fight to eradicate the problem once and for all.”

Sarah Gudgin, Curator of Contemporary Collecting at the Museum of London, said: “The exhibition discusses the idea that human trafficking and enslavement are neither confined to history nor something that happens elsewhere in the world. The underlining resilience of the people who have survived and the commitment of Londoners who actively support survivors and are helping end this exploitation, are all examined in the display.

The life story of survivor and campaigner Mende Nazer who is featured in the exhibition is being presented by Feelgood Theatre (external page) in the London premiere of Slave - A Question of Freedom, which runs at Riverside Studios from 6 September to 1 October. Based on the book ‘Slave’ (Virago) by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis, the play tells the compelling real life story of a young woman’s account of being sold into slavery and her subsequent fight for freedom.

The exhibition demonstrates that London is proactive, forward thinking and committed in its challenge to end trafficking and as a place where personal and collective courage, compassion and conviction abound.

Freedom from: modern slavery in the capital has free entry and opens 23 August 2011 and runs until 20 November 2011.

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